Plasma shots can help some avoid surgery

Chris LaDue, 31, is pain-free now after undergoing a platelet rich plasma procedure on his knee in June to repair a split tendon.

For Chris Ladue it sounded too good to be true.

After splitting a tendon in his knee, Ladue figured surgery was the only option to repair his ailing limb.

“It had been hurting for a while,” Ladue, an avid skier, said. “I didn’t want to do surgery because I didn’t want to be laid up for three months.”

But when it came down to it, all it took to heal Ladue’s knee was a shot.

Ladue, a 31-year-old Grand Junction resident, joined a growing list of people getting a platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection to heal various tendon and overuse-related injuries.

“It was like you are going to give me a shot and it’s going to make me feel better — that’s not going to happen,” Ladue said. “But after three weeks, I had no pain.”

Dr. Michael Reeder of Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic Associates performed the procedure on Ladue that takes the patient’s own blood and concentrates platelets.

The platelets are a cell in the blood that is a natural source for growth factors. The cell enhances tissue regeneration and healing, and with PRP the process has an increased effect.

“We take your blood out of your arm, spin off everything, and concentrate the platelets to six or eight times the normal concentration,” Reeder said. “We spin it down to three CCs (cubic centimeters) of mostly platelets and white blood cells and inject that into the area that isn’t healing well, and it stimulates the healing.”

PRP has been around since the early part of this decade, but it’s still relatively new to the Western Slope. Reeder said he’s been using it for seven months, and while they still don’t use it a lot, the response has been positive.

Heidi Zeldenthuis of Crawford used PRP to heal a nasty torn tendon in her elbow.

Zeldenthuis hurt her elbow while unloading hay on her family farm. She said she heard something pop and went to her family doctor, who gave her a shot of cortisone, which lasted five months.

Once the first cortisone shot wore off, she was given another injection, which lasted only three weeks.

“Once the second one wore off, I figured I better try something else,” Zeldenthuis said.

Zeldenthuis met with Reeder, who told her that because of the nature of her injury she would be a good candidate for PRP. Coming off a recent shoulder surgery,

Zeldenthuis was willing to try something new because she didn’t want to go under the knife again.

“If we did surgery there would have been a lot of grafting,” Zeldenthuis said. “(Dr. Reeder) explained it, and I talked it over and read about it, then said go ahead and try it.”

Zeldenthuis said she still had a significant amount of pain for the first month after the injection, but by the third month she was pain free.

The range of time to feel effects is nothing unusual, according to Reeder. Because treatment utilizes the patient’s own healing cells, recovery time varies.

“It takes longer than you would think because you are looking at trying to stimulate the healing cycle, which can take longer in each person,” Reeder said. “The people who have a longer history with an injury, that’s where we see patients having the hardest time getting better.”

PRP can’t do it alone. Reeder said to see the best results from the procedure, people still have to do rehabilitation.

“You have to do all the other rehab with it,” Reeder said. “Active rest, swimming, basically addressing all the things that attributed to the injury.”

While PRP hasn’t replaced every other medical option, Reeder is enthusiastic about PRP, not only for the results he’s already seen, but the general overview of the procedure.

“We are trying to find biology treatments that are safer, and have better long-term results,” Reeder said. “With this you aren’t burning any bridges. You are using your own blood so you aren’t going to have a reaction, and it’s very usual to have an infection. The risks of doing it are very minimal.”

Currently, the one downside to PRP is that it isn’t covered by most insurances. The reason for that is because it is still a relatively new procedure. But for Ladue and Zeldenthuis, paying out of pocket for the PRP was the smartest choice.

“Insurance didn’t cover it so I was scared,” Zeldenthuis said. “But with how expensive surgery can get, it ended up being more cost effective, and worked better.”


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